By Amanda Ojeda
On Wednesday, April 14th, President Biden announced the complete withdrawal of American troops in Afghanistan by September 11, 2021. The deadline date marks the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attack on various parts of the United States.
Weeks after the attack, President Bush decided to retaliate against the Taliban and the terrorist group behind the 9/11 attack, Al-Qaeda. “These carefully targeted actions are designed to disrupt the use of Afghanistan as a terrorist base of operations, and to attack the military capability of the Taliban regime,” said Bush. After a failed attempt in demanding the Taliban to turn over Al-Qaeda leaders, the president launched the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, mainly by sending troops to occupy key areas. The rationale was clear; to stop Al-Qaeda and to overthrow the Taliban. These events marked the start of the longest war in American history, lasting almost 20 years, which is nearly twice as long as the previous longest war, Vietnam.
The war in Afghanistan has seen 775,000 American troops serve, and 2,300 killed. The U.S. also put in more than $2 trillion into the war, and unfortunately, 38,000 Afghan civilian lives have been lost as a result of the conflict.
With the U.S. drawing it’s troops out of Afghanistan raises many questions from both nations, but the goal will still remain even after the September 11 deadline. The goal being, to ensure that Afghanistan will not become a safe haven for terrorist groups to operate, despite being unable to establish a democratic governance.
“When will it be the right moment to leave? One more year? Two more years? Ten more years?… I am now the fourth American president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan – two Republicans, two Democrats, I will not pass this responsibility to a fifth,” said Biden.
Many have worried these past few decades for Afghan civilians living under the oppressive and restricted rule of the Taliban. These fears have only heightened now that the U.S. is withdrawing its forces, after failing to transform Afghanistan into a modern democracy.
A Brief Timeline of the Events Leading Up to U.S. Forces Withdrawing from Afghanistan
The British are defeated in the Third British- Afghan War, which lasted from 1919 to 1921. Afghanistan becomes an independent nation as a result of the British loss. Amir Amanullah Khan, the leader of the independent Afghanistan, campaigns for socio economic reforms.
Amanullah transforms Afghanistan into a monarchy, becoming the self-proclaimed king. Opponents of Amanullah and his new policies retaliated in 1928, forcing Amanullah to relinquish his title of king, and to flee the country.
The U.S. formally gives diplomatic recognition to Afghanistan as its own state.
Mohammed Daoud Khan, cousin of the king, becomes prime minister. He was pro-Soviet and looked to the Soviet Union for assistance in the military and economy.
Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev provides aid to Afghanistan, making the two countries close allies.
The Afghan Communist Party secretly forms.
The People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan overthrew the monarchy, leaving Khan as the president.
Khan is killed in a communist coup and Taraki, a communist leader, gains control as president. He announces independence from Soviet influences and establishes new policies based on Islamic principles. There are also rural revolts against Khan from conservative Islamic and ethnic leaders, who form the Mujahadeen.
The USSR invades Afghanistan on December 24 to uphold a communist rule. The Mujahideen rebels unite against Soviet invaders.
Osama bin Laden makes his first documented trip to aid anti-Soviet fighters. The U.S. also began to investigate human rights violations within Afghanistan.
The Mujahideen receive their weaponry and supplies from the United States, Britain, and China.
In September, Osama bin Laden and 15 others formed the group Al-Qaeda, in order to continue their holy war or jihad, against the Soviets. They also wanted to establish a nation governed solely based on their interpretation of Islam.
The Mujahadeen along with other rebels storm the capital, Kabul, forming a largely Islamic state.
A newly formed militia, called the Taliban, rises into power. They establish strict laws which are enforced by public executions, amputations, and other forms of torture. The U.S. refuses to recognize the authority of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
October 15, the UN adopts Resolution 1267, which label Al-Qaeda and the Taliban Sanctions Committee as terrorist bodies. The Taliban also provide sanctuary for Al-Qaeda to operate.
On September 9, Massoud, a commander of the Northern Alliance, was assassinated by al-Qaeda. The Northern Alliance is a coalition which opposes the practices of the Taliban. Two days later, Al-Qaeda launches the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania. 3,000 lives are lost in the attacks. Bush sends American troops to invade Afghanistan, marking the start of the two-decade war. December 9th is generally associated with the official fall of the Taliban, but many members remain.
Operation Anaconda, the first major ground assault and a very large scale operation is launched against remaining Taliban fighters and Al-Qaeda. The U.S. also began to reconstruct Afghanistan, spending over $38 billion on the reconstruction, from 2001-2009.
October 29, Osama bin Laden releases a videotape message mocking the Bush administration and assuming responsibility for the 9/11 attacks. “We want to restore freedom to our nation, just as you lay waste to our nation,” said bin Laden.
President Obama announces a plan to send 17,000 troops to Afghanistan in order to help control the resurgence of the Taliban, and to stop Afghanistan from becoming a terrorist safe haven. Later in December, he declares another 30,000 forces will be sent to fight in the war.
May 1st, Osama bin Laden is killed by U.S. forces in Pakistan. President Obama prepares to announce the withdrawal of a fraction of the troops in Afghanistan, while receiving pressure to maintain a military establishment in the war zone. Dozens of countries engage in the Bonn Conference, which was held to discuss Afghanistan’s future.
Obama announces a new plan for withdrawing most American troops out of the war zone by the end of the year, in order to apply U.S. resources into other priorities.
The U.S. drops its most powerful non-nuclear bomb on Islamic State militants at a cave in the Nangarhar Province. President Trump also elaborates on his Afghanistan Policy, hinting at a prolonged Afghan War.
The Trump administration implements its Afghanistan Plan, which includes more troops across rural areas. The Taliban launches more attacks as a response to the plan.
Intra-Afghan peace talks begin, discussing negotiations between the Afghan and U.S. governments. President Trump announces American troop withdrawals to be completed by May 1st.
President Biden announces his plan to extend the withdrawal deadline to September 11, with the goal being zero American troops remaining in Afghanistan.